In a pitchers’ duel Saturday, South Carolina baseball cracked first, but the Gamecocks got the last laugh, rallying and then holding on to beat Tennessee, 3-2, for their first SEC win of the season.
USC (16-7, 1-4 SEC) got another solid performance from junior starter Reid Morgan, who gave up one earned run in 5 1/3 innings, and then a huge, drama-filled final two innings from freshman Brett Kerry to secure the victory.
Trailing by one run in the eighth inning, UT loaded the bases on two walks and a bunt single against Kerry, only for him to bounce back and strike out the side, the final two on 3-2 counts.
In the ninth, Tennessee got a leadoff double, then advanced him to third on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Kerry struck out his fifth batter on the night to clinch the save.
It was an intense finish to a game where offense was at a premium early. Tennessee junior Zach Linginfelter handcuffed the Gamecocks early, going 6 2/3 innings, walking none and giving up just four hits.
Throughout the first two-thirds of the game, the Gamecocks only once really threatened Linginfelter. In the fourth inning, sophomore DH Noah Campbell led off the inning with a single and then stole second. With two outs, senior right fielder Jacob Olson launched a deep fly ball to left field that Tennessee’s Alerick Souliare laid out to catch on the warming track, robbing Olson of an RBI and extra bases.
Tennessee, meanwhile, was handcuffed for the first half of the game before finally touching Morgan for runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, parlaying a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt, throwing error and single into a score, making it 1-0.
The Volunteers doubled their lead the next inning, as Morgan hit the first batter he faced, gave up a steal and then allowed two singles to push another run across the plate. Redshirt freshman reliever Cam Tringali came in for Morgan with runners on the corners and one out and got two strikeouts to escape the jam.
It was the seventh inning before South Carolina was able to reach Linginfelter. To that point, the right-hander had faced only one more batter than the minimum.
In the seventh, however, senior center fielder TJ Hopkins delivered a one-out single and senior right fielder Jacob Olson was hit by a pitch. The pair then executed a double steal, setting them up to score when senior first baseman Chris Cullen launched a 1-2 offering to right field for a double. Cullen came around to score the game-winning run on a double from sophomore pinch hitter Jordan Holladay.
Next: South Carolina and Tennessee finish their series Sunday, with first pitch at 2 p.m.